United Nations officials have discovered that 2.5 tons of uranium has gone missing in the war-torn country of Libya, sparking international concern.
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Rafael Grossi told member states on Wednesday that inspectors in Libya “found that 10 drums containing approximately 2.5 tons of natural uranium in the form of UOC (uranium ore concentrate) previously declared by (Libya) … as being stored at that location were not present at the location,” according to Reuters.
While the IAEA’s statement did not elaborate on where the uranium could be, the agency stated, “The loss of knowledge about the present location of nuclear material may present a radiological risk, as well as nuclear security concerns,” adding that reaching the site required “complex logistics,” Reuters reported.
Some 2.5 tons of natural uranium stored in a site in war-torn Libya have gone missing, the United Nations nuclear watchdog says, raising safety and proliferation concerns. Natural uranium can’t immediately be used for energy production or bomb fuel. https://t.co/O3ZZvG9kUR
— The Associated Press (@AP) March 16, 2023
Though uranium in its natural form cannot be used in weapons or for energy production, each ton of natural uranium can be refined to create approximately 12 pounds of weapons-grade material, provided a group or country has the technological means to do so, ABC News reported. (RELATED: Iranian Lawmaker Claims Country Has At Least 3,000 Centrifuges)
Scott Roecker of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a global security organisation working on nuclear issues, told BBC News the uranium had been relocated to a “remote” location in the south of Libya in an area outside of government control.
“If you’re removing this material from this location you must really want it,” Roecker stated, adding the missing 2.5 tons equal to about one-tenth of the amount of material stored at the facility, making its absence obvious. While Roecker agreed that “yellow cake” uranium could be enriched to make a nuclear weapon, he offered up the possibility that the missing material was stolen for other purposes.
“Perhaps it was stolen by someone who wants to make a profit out of this? There’s a lot of scenarios around this,” he told the outlet.
Since the NATO-backed ousting of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, Libya has been divided into warring political and military factions, neither of which is in control of the south, BBC reported. The country has also seen various foreign groups and governments vying for influence within its borders to include Russia’s Wagner Group and the Islamic State, the outlet stated.